As the mother of a teenage boy with autism, I wish to comment on the recent letters about a link between autism and childhood vaccinations.

It is true the Centers for Disease Control, American Medical Association, Augmentative and Alternative Communication and many scientists and doctors have stated that: 1) There is no link between autism and vaccinations (specifically the mumps, measles, rubella vaccine), 2) the mercury preservative has been removed and it is not the cause and 3) the author of the first study done to reach this conclusion has been sanctioned in the United Kingdom — and yet the incidence of autism continues to increase.

Perhaps it is time to listen to those of us that are in the trenches and living with autism every day.

My son was a typically developing toddler. He met his milestones (walking, talking, etc.) early or on time. He received his first MMR at 19 months of age. The change in him was almost immediate. He did not regress in development, but his social skills became extremely compromised. Noises became unbearable. Before the vaccination, one of his favorite "toys" was my vacuum, and he "helped" me with the household task daily. The day after his MMR vaccine, he ran from the room screaming in terror at the noise. He became obsessed with rituals and things. Food and clothing textures, previously non-issues, now were major stresses in his life.

The real truths that have not been addressed are that it is not mercury or preservatives in vaccines that cause autism in children, but the composition of the vaccine itself, specifically the rubella (German measles) portion of the vaccine. Rubella causes brain damage in developing brains, either in the womb or in infancy. The vaccine is manufactured from the virus that causes the disease. Children receive the first dose of the MMR vaccine at a time when their brains are developing the fastest and autism is a neurological disorder.

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This is the real cause of the increase in autism rates. Not the mercury, not questionable studies, not a bunch of fanatical parents grasping at straws for answers or somewhere to place blame; it is the use of an altered virus known to cause neurological damage as a preventive measure against the disease in toddlers when their brains are developing the most rapidly.

I am not against vaccines. Vaccines protect us all from debilitating consequences of disease. I only question the timing. I have been asked by many if parents should abstain from vaccinating their children and I always encourage parents to be sure that their children receive most of the vaccines available; however, I feel the timing is wrong. No child should receive the MMR vaccine until after two years of age, and two and a half would be more ideal.

There is a genetic component to autism. Many people have some predisposition to autism-like traits, (the smoking gun, so to speak) but the environment (rubella vaccine) is the trigger that causes the genetics to awaken.

Cindy Pokezwinski is a resident of Salt Lake City.

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